Following a well-documented student protest at a talk given by Colonel Richard Kemp on campus, several students face disciplinary action from the University and an academic faces the sack. Accusations of anti-Semitism at the protest encouraged a witch hunt, for which student protestors and a member of staff in the audience are being punished. Importantly, an inquiry into the protest has found that the staff member’s conduct did not constitute “anti-Semitic behaviour”, but they still face dismissal or other disciplinary action for allegedly not treating a university visitor “with respect, impartiality, courtesy and sensitivity”.
The threats to these staff and students represent a significant threat to our civil liberties at university, and the political freedom that is vital to the university community. The University of Sydney has a long, proud history of demonstrating dissent, and a disgraceful recent history of punishing students who engage politically on campus. Too many times in recent history have student protestors ended up brutalised on and banned from campus for asserting their freedom of speech and freedom to protest, whether that be by demonstrating against war crimes, conservative governments, or supporting staff striking for fairer work conditions.
Interestingly, the University also disallowed a Socialist Equality Party (SEP) forum against militarism to take place over the ANZAC day weekend. The university reportedly bowed to pressure from groups associated with ‘The Great Aussie Patriot’ to cancel the event, which has links to the fascists at ‘Reclaim Australia’. The University feared disruption of the event, and formally uninvited the SEP; a risk they were apparently prepared to take when it came to Richard Kemp’s lecture. Give ‘Defend USYD Civil Liberties’ a like on Facebook, and come to their student and staff meeting this Wednesday from 1 – 2:30 PM in the General Lecture Theatre, Main Quad.
Also come to Education Action Group meetings at 1 PM on Tuesdays on the New Law Lawns. The next major action for education movement in NSW will be on May the 12th, 2 PM at Town Hall, called by the NSW Education Action Network – rally against education cuts, course fees and cuts to welfare. We know the score by now and have a pretty good idea what to expect from this government, and will be ready to strike back as soon as the budget is announced.